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Spurs win preseason game over Magic ... and announce another potential injury

The Spurs give up nearly fifty fewer points than last game, taking a lead from the start and never looking back.

NBA: Preseason-Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Rudy Gay missed tonight’s festivities due to heel inflammation. While Coach Pop told the media Gay was being held out for precautionary measures, all of this sounds far too familiar. It was just a couple days ago Derrick White was being held out of a preseason game due to pain in his heel. White ended up being diagnosed with a tear in his heel and will be out for the foreseeable future. To make matters worse, Gay missed significant time last season while trying to manage heel inflammation, so forgive me if I hold my breath until I see him on the court opening night. Gay had undoubtedly been the Spurs’ best player during the preseason.

With the majority of the Spurs’ guard rotation injured, the Spurs had little choice but to go big with Davis Bertans at the three. The rest of the starting lineup consisted of Jakob Poeltl, LaMarcus Aldridge, Bryn Forbes, and DeMar DeRozan. Forbes and DeRozan appeared to take turns handling the ball on offense. DeRozan’s ability to run the pick-and-roll is well established by now, but Forbes was actually the Spurs most effective pick-and-roll ball-handler last season — albeit in a very small number of attempts. The Spurs seemed more-than-comfortable letting him run the show for long stretches of the game, so it will be interesting to see how he progresses with a larger share of the offensive workload.

Game flow

After giving up what seemed like an infinite number of points to the Hawks on Wednesday, the Spurs clamped down on defense, holding the Magic to ten points in the first quarter. The Magic missed a few open looks from beyond the arc, but every Spurs player on the court was engaged on the defensive end, resulting in active hands and sharp rotations. Pau Gasol, Poeltl, and Aldridge are all above-average at defending the paint, and this was on full display tonight.

The Spurs allowed an easy dunk on the first possession of the second quarter. Coach Pop, showing he’s already in mid-season form, immediately called a timeout. Both teams continued to struggle offensively, bricking enough shots to build me a nice summer home in Orlando. The Spurs have a lot of offensive firepower, but there’s a certain lack of chemistry with many of the lineups. This is understandable, given the unfortunate nature of the past couple weeks. The Spurs ended the first half up 40-30, though it was hard to feel too good about the offensive struggles. The Spurs shot only 30% from the field, while the Magic shot an even-worse 28%.

In the third quarter, the ball movement was much stronger. The Spurs were able to get to any spot on the court they wanted, resulting in a flurry of wide open looks. Better yet, shots started to fall. The Spurs extended their lead to 19 in the third, finishing the quarter up 71-52.

The fourth quarter was extended garbage time, giving the end-of-the-bench players some run. I may or may not have been in-and-out of the game by this time, as I instead chose to start putting together this article. I do know the final score was 100-81, and the Spurs ended the preseason with a 3-2 record. More importantly, I do not believe the Spurs came out of the game with any additional injuries.

Notes from the game

  • DeRozan had an awkward fall to start the fourth quarter, and I almost started to cry. It’s been that kind of summer. He stayed in the game, scored on the next possession, then got a steal on the defensive end.
  • Bertans has not had the preseason I was hoping for, shooting 33% from both the field and behind the arc. I feel he is holding back while on the court. Whether this is due to a lack of confidence (unlikely) or by design, I’d like to see a more-aggressive version of Bertans soon. I still believe he is going to be a very important part of the Spurs’ success this season. He provides chaos and floor-spacing while on the court, and his defense is far better than he is given credit for. With that said, I don’t believe Bertans at the three is a good solution for the Spurs. When healthy, I expect Gay to slip into that role, with Bertans playing the four alongside Aldridge in the starting lineup or Gasol/Poeltl off the bench.
  • DeRozan and Aldridge are going to compete for league leader in fouls drawn using pump fakes.
  • DeRozan was able to get into the paint at will in this one, finishing with a team-high 20 points on 5-11 shooting, including 9-12 from the free throw line. The Spurs are used to finishing towards the bottom in the league at free throw attempts, but that might change with DeRozan in the fold.
  • DeRozan went 1-2 from beyond the arc. The made three-pointer was a spot-up shot from the corner, where he’s had success throughout his career. The miss was not a spot-up nor did it come from the corner, and came closer to ending up in the third row than it did the basket. DeRozan needs to use his ability to punish defenders by attacking them, not settling for contested long jumpers.
  • Patty Mills was great in this one and has shown steady improvement throughout the preseason. With the Spurs short on guards for the next couple months, Mills is going to be asked to do more than initially expected. This, too, sounds all too familiar.
  • For the second straight game, Forbes led the Spurs in +/-. He didn’t shoot it great in this one, but he looked comfortable with the ball in his hands. He finished the night with eight points, six rebounds, three assists, and two turnovers. Injuries aside, Forbes has definitely earned a spot in the Spurs’ rotation with his play.
  • For the first time this preseason, Poeltl looked like he belonged in the Spurs’ rotation. He looked strong on defense and even added a bit of offensive to his game in the second half.
  • Aldridge has been coasting this preseason. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I hope he gets back to his dominating ways next week, backing down defenders until they are forced to bring help.
  • Aaron Gordon looked much better this summer going up against the old men from the movie Uncle Drew. Through three quarters, Gordon was 0-10 from the field and was a team worst -20.
  • The best player for the Magic was their Mascot, as he sunk a backwards, over-the-head half court shot in the fourth quarter.